Reinvention wasn’t kidding.
I should have known – the way she pushed Self-Doubt off the porch last summer with a mere flick of a finger. Unfortunately, I was too dumbstruck by her very existence.
Each time we sang hymns by firelight her voice rang clear, strong.
“It…is well…with my Soul….”
At this point in the story winter had long settled in. Subzero numbers replaced inviting outdoor fall temperatures and most nights we found our ourselves wrapped up in handmade afghans like snug little bugs.
Mid-Life never failed to find her spot. Several months ago we’d gotten together and Mid-Life wore the usual ‘know-it-all face’ like things she’d seen over the years made her a local expert on all parts: Jen.
I tolerated her rants. Barely.
This time it was an uninvited commentary of work dynamics, personal life disasters, self-care failures and mothering mishaps while perusing books on the shelf as if to ask ‘did you learn anything from these‘?
And I hated she was wearing that black t-shirt again with ‘805’ across the chest. Santa Barbara was 20 years ago. There was no going back-but she wore the damn thing at least once a week.
Finally Reinvention set her mug down on the brown coffee table and told Mid-Life to sit.
“Look” Reinvention said. “Quit.”
“Quit, what?” Mid-Life retorted.
“This isn’t the time for finger pointing. Jen’s world is going to speed up quick and everything you thought she’d ignored — well, she didn’t. She’s paid more attention than you give credit. You aren’t driving this bus- so sit back and zip your lip. Change your shirt, wash your face, fix your hair, sit closer to the sunlight and see what happens. And…if you (still) can’t say something nice – don’t say anything at all.”
I grinned. Reinvention must have met my mother in her travels because both Mid-Life and I heard that one before.
She left in a huff.
When Mid-Life returned a few weeks later my daughter was the first to notice she wore a white t-shirt with a Peace Sign. As she stepped through the mud room and into our kitchen we both went straight for two coffee mugs bearing fortuitous statements: “You can” and “You will.” She took the former, I took the latter.
Reinvention arrived only a few moments later.
Every time she entered my home – the whole atmosphere shifted.
This woman was pure glory.
So when one word came out of her mouth — I just about dropped my mug — because she said it strong. Fierce. Like a human agent on a mission from the Unseen Realm.
“What?” I looked around.
“Excuse me?” I answered. Baffled.
“Stop. Now. This crazy, stress filled soul crushing life. You crossed the threshold, leaped over the chasm, made the break, paid your penance, carried your baggage long enough. I’ve listened to you since last summer. It’s time. I’m looking around and a lot of this stuff has got. to. go. It doesn’t fit anymore. You’ve repented, grieved and run yourself ragged with a weight breaking your back. I told you it was time to live last June and I meant it.“
I challenged her. Defensive. Argumentative. Frightened. I’d never been free from the chains of my past. I hated that they dragged behind me, I wanted my daughter to know different. But I couldn’t get free. Good Lord, I had tried.
She looked at me.
I felt something twist inside my gut.
And I’d never seen Reinvention’s eyes burn so bright.
The truth was a huge part of me had been dying for several years. I knew it. My daughter knew it. I was in a beautifully terrible bind and although convicted by Reinvention’s wisdom last summer — I metaphorically ran the other direction (as evidenced by changing: nothing).
I watched her stand up and extend a hand.
“I brought 6 boxes of Hefty trash bags.” She said.
“We’re starting in the basement – and we’re starting: now. Get up, Jennifer and follow me.”
I stumbled down the stairs, behind her, like I’d forgotten how to walk. Mid-Life in tow –not much better at it either.
Reinvention began in one corner without a word. She loaded (and heaved out the back door) one bag after another. Parts of my life I’d held on to – some for decades. There went my 20’s. I remember that snapshot by the beach and pieces of broken hearts.
We’d only just begun.
Here came the 30’s. Oof. Those fragments filled about 25 bags alone. Why in the world did I keep those wedding dresses. Holy cow I forgot about those pictures. And here comes all my diaries from California, Tennessee and Kansas City. So many words. We mostly worked side by side. I’d pull one or two things apart from the massive heap of shit and she’d say, “alright. but watch yourself.” Sigh.
Poor Mid-Life looked like she wanted to disappear as I removed years and years layered in shame, sorrow or guilt. At one point my sweet daughter came downstairs and asked if she could help. “No, baby girl. This is mama’s job.”
When we hit the 40’s I thought I’d have apoplexy. More journals, images and bits pulled off shelves, or out of closets, sang like mythological sirens towards destruction. But Reinvention grabbed my hand and pressed on.
We worked until dawn. One floor after another cleansed of damaging debris. I couldn’t believe it was happening. Mid-Life crashed at some point on my living room couch. I covered her with a multi-colored blanket and brushed a strand of hair from her forehead. She wasn’t so bad, after all.
I heard Reinvention take the red broom and dustpan back to it’s hook by the door and stand for a moment in my vintage kitchen giving everything one last look.
I knew she was leaving this time for good.
God, I was scared.
I’d never been so weightless or free.
As if reading my mind, Reinvention moved closer and put her ancient hands on either side of my face. She first kissed my forehead, then drew back, kept a steady gaze and said with measured intention: “Trust.”